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Judge Veronica S. Villegas
FY 2018 - 2023, Los Angeles Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Veronica S. Villegas to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Villegas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1996 from California State University Fullerton and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from the Loyola Law School. From 2012 to January 2017, and previously from 2004 through 2005, she was in private practice at the Law Office of Veronica S. Villegas, in West Covina, Calif. From 2005 through 2012, she was a partner at Hill, Piibe & Villegas, in West Covina, Calif. From 2003 through 2004, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. From 1999 through 2003, she served as an assistant district counsel for the former Office of the District Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice. Judge Villegas is a member of the State Bar of California.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Villegas were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Villegas decided 230 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 139, granted 8 other types of relief, and denied relief to 83. Converted to percentage terms, Villegas denied 36.1 percent and granted 63.9 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Villegas's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Villegas's denial rate of 36.1 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Los Angeles Immigration Court where Judge Villegas decided these cases denied asylum 66.8 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Villegas's asylum grant and denial rates are compared with other judges serving on the same court in this table. Note that when an Immigration Judge serves on more than one court during the same period, separate Immigration Judge reports are created for any Court in which the judge rendered at least 100 asylum decisions.

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

Although denial rates are shaped by each Judge's judicial philosophy, denial rates are also shaped by other factors, such as the types of cases on the Judge's docket, the detained status of immigrant respondents, current immigration policies, and other factors beyond an individual Judge's control. For example, TRAC has previously found that legal representation and the nationality of the asylum seeker are just two factors that appear to impact asylum decision outcomes.

The composition of cases may differ significantly between Immigration Courts in the country. Within a single Court when cases are randomly assigned to judges sitting on that Court, each Judge should have roughly a similar composition of cases given a sufficient number of asylum cases. Then variations in asylum decisions among Judges on the same Immigration Court would appear to reflect, at least in part, the judicial philosophy that the Judge brings to the bench. However, if judges within a Court are assigned to specialized dockets or hearing locations, then case compositions are likely to continue to differ and can contribute to differences in asylum denial rates.


When asylum seekers are not represented by an attorney, almost all of them (80%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Villegas, 4.8% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation


Asylum seekers are a diverse group. Over one hundred different nationalities had at least one hundred individuals claiming asylum decided during this period. As might be expected, immigration courts located in different parts of the country tend to have proportionately larger shares from some countries than from others. And, given the required legal grounds for a successful asylum claim, asylum seekers from some nations tend to be more successful than others.

The largest group of asylum seekers appearing before Judge Villegas came from China. Individuals from this country made up 42.6% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Villegas were: El Salvador (13.5%), Mexico (12.2%), Guatemala (7.8%), Iran (4.3%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were El Salvador (16.6%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (13.8%), Mexico (9.2%), China (6.8%), India (5.1%), Venezuela (3.2%), Ecuador (3.1%), Cuba (2.4%), Nicaragua (2.3%), Brazil (2.0%), Colombia (1.4%), Cameroon (1.4%).

Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.